Fascists and conspiracies: The tragedy of media coverage in Venezuela

Amidst ongoing protests and increasing casualties in Venezuela, there are easier things to achieve than getting serious, non-biased and verifiable information on the political situation the country is facing at the moment.

While the number of killed individuals after more than two months of protests and ideological confrontation between anti-Government demonstrators and Maduro supporters has risen to 30, it remains difficult to identify the culprits and verify the claims of responsibility for aggressions und human rights violations in the country.

In a State hopelessly divided into two ideological camps with few domestic actors interested in non-ideological and pragmatic problem-solving strategies, the media in Venezuela and at the international level alike struggle to capture the comprehensive picture of the confrontation.

Leading Western media and newspapers, including CNN, CNN en español, El País, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Le Monde tend to focus their coverage on the demonstrations of oppositional groups. By showing images and videos recorded mostly in media and upper-class neighborhoods, they create an asymmetric picture of what is going on in the Andean-Caribbean country. The Qatar-based TV channel Al Jazeera English joins the pro-opposition camp and shows a clear bias, giving merely voice to the critics of president Maduro and neglecting crimes committed by violent far-right demonstrators.

On the other hand, there is a group of Venezuelan national and international news platforms and broadcasters that greenly adopt the official position and declarations of the socialist government. From the perspective of the state broadcaster Venezolana de Televisión, the international program teleSUR, Hispan TV (Iran), and Russia Today, the underlying reasons behind the protests are clear-cut.

They suspect a U.S. American conspiracy with the Venezuelan far-right destabilizing the regime and preparing a coup d’état to topple president Maduro. Drawing on parallels to 2002, when former president Hugo Chávez was ousted for three days by an U.S. supported coup, they can credibly play the anti-imperialism card. The strategy of Maduro and its media allies is to lump together the non-violent protest movement with those applying Guarimba methods (violent blockades) in order to discredit all oppositional forces as “fascists”.

The ongoing and deepening ideological polarization in Venezuela is being further aggravated by the extremely biased media coverage of the current events in the country. Despite appeals from UNASUR and the OAS to resolve the disputes peacefully, an end of political violence in Venezuela is not in sight at the moment. Both pro-Government and the opposing media should make their contribution by providing a more differentiated and holistic view of what’s going on in the country instead of adding fuel to the fire.

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